Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Mystery Medic - the trail begins

We all have them – photos of people of whose identity is a mystery. But this is a particularly interesting one.
Who is our mystery medic?
As you can probably tell from the image, it's a studio photograph, and is a good size at 8" x 6". We found it in a photo album of random, but precious, family photographs put together by my husband's mum.

This photo belonged to his grandmother, Caroline Matilda Saunders (nee Long) and has "Mrs Saunders" written on the back in a hand my husband doesn't recognise. Sadly though, it doesn't have the name of the sitter.

A browse online revealed that the gentleman's cap badge is that of the Royal Army Medical Corps,
an organisation formed in 1898.

An #AncestryHour friend identified the "pips" on his shoulder as those of a lieutenant.

I've also been told that most of the officers in the R.A.M.C. would have been doctors.
So, who is he?

The fact that Caroline was given an "official" photograph, and that she kept it amongst her most treasured possessions, suggests that he was significant to her. He would be a contemporary of her own daughter – so, a nephew, perhaps? The logical initial trail to follow, then, would be to identify all her nephews and establish whether any of them were in the R.A.M.C. or, indeed, if any were doctors. As it's a branch of the family I've not researched in any great depth, it could be a long job, particularly as Caroline had eight brothers and sisters.

But then, of course, he could be someone from the her husband's side of the family, Alfred Joseph Saunders, whose picture you can see below, left. Any family resemblance, do you think? Something about the nose, perhaps? (Sadly, Alfred died in 1929. I wrote about his sad story in my post, Tantalising Clues.)

Alfred also came from a large family. He was the youngest of eight, with five brothers and two sisters.

Perhaps, I wondered, our man was killed during WW2 and this was the reason for Caroline to have received his photograph?

So, on a whim, I went on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and put the name Saunders into the search engine, along with a reference to the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Up popped an Albert Henry Saunders, a lieutenant, serving in the R.A.M.C. who died in Italy in 1944. Could this be him?

But Saunders is too common a surname for such a scatter-gun approach. Besides, as Caroline had both sisters and sister-in-laws, the surname may not be Saunders at all. Time to get back to my systematic trawl and try and establish some more tangible links.

Surely someone as distinguished as this officer must turn up somewhere!


The Army Medical Corps has a museum in Aldershot. More about it, including advice on researching individuals, can be found on their website,

If you have medics in the family, whether nurses or doctors, military or civilian, Michelle Higg's book, Tracing Your Medical Ancestors, is an informative resource on the history of medicine practitioners as well as where to find their records. have just added to their website, a database of Nursing records, covering a period from 1891-1968. These include nurses registered with the Royal College of Nursing.